One touch plus to life

01 Nov 2006

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Last but not the least of the 12 projects that are supported by the “Life Plus” Youth Fund will be implemented by five young fencers from Ankara.

New Horizons - Their aim is to introduce the fencing sport to high school students (at 7 high schools in Ankara) and 13-18 year-old youngsters living in protection houses for unclaimed children. The project aims to contribute new sportspeople to the Turkish society. The project team of five fencers also aspire to be a role model for their peers.

The young fencers from Ankara tell us about their project:

Before giving their presentation on fencing to the students of Kocatepe Mimar Kemal High School, New Horizons talked to Canan Göksu, Selen Kızıltaş and Sertaç Sümer from the project team. First, they told us how they came up with this project idea.

Canan Göksu (C.G.): Currently there are about 750 licensed fencers in Turkey. This number, when compared to the population of the country, is very small. Yet, fencing is a fairly popular sport in Europe. Fencing enables people to acquire many skills. Particularly it enables one to attain the skills and the faculty, such as balance, coordination, fast decision making and good judgement. At the same time, it allows you to use your intelligence. Due to its capacity-building characteristics, fencing is a compulsory subject taught at Air Force Cadet Schools and in opera, ballet and drama departments of Conservatories in our country.

However, fencing is neither a well-known, nor a widely-practised sport in Turkey. When we tell people that we are fencers, they ask, “What is fencing?” Many people do not even have the simplest idea about fencing. It is not at all popular like football. You know, even if you only have a pair of shorts and sports shoes, you can easily play football on the street in your neighbourhood. But for us fencers, a fencing hall, special outfits and technical equipment are absolute necessities; therefore, it does not sound too attractive to the majority of young people. What’s more, because of the equipment we use, many people regard fencing as a dangerous sport. Our goal in this project is to increase the number of fencers in our country.

UNDP Turkey: Is fencing an expensive sport for a young person? Can anybody who wants to take up fencing easily afford it ?

C.G.: Unfortunately, fencing requires rather costly technical equipment. We use special fencing outfits which are not cheap. That is why we provide all the equipment for our trainees, and we give the training courses free of charge. Our only expectation is that they set their hearts on fencing just like we did, and carry on training and exercising.

UNDP Turkey: What is your budget?

C.G.: We have a budget of $11,200. The “Life Plus” Youth Fund extends $10,000, and the Fencing Federation $1,200. We have 10 sets of equipment ready at hand. We want to train at least 10 young people, more the better. We will be happier if the number of young trainees grows. Fencing added a lot to our lives, and we want the same thing to happen to our young friends. There is something I would particularly like to emphasize. If our trainees keep on fencing and be successful, they can enter sports and physical education schools from these schools’ designated quotas in the future, and become physical education teachers. We have many friends who trained in fencing and later became P.E. teachers. Thus, we may contribute to our trainees in acquiring a profession, too. In addition, they can also give courses on refereeing and coaching and make it a profession.

UNDP Turkey: That means, you are going to teach them to acquire discipline, a different perspective and a profession as well?

C.G.: Certainly, they can eventually become sports teachers. We are introducing fencing to 7 high schools and 2 houses for the protection of unclaimed children in Ankara within the context of this project. Kocatepe Mimar Kemal High School here today is our second presentation. We gave our first presentation at Ataturk High School.

UNDP Turkey: Did you recruit any trainee fencing candidates from Atatürk High School?

C.G.: Yes, with the encouragement of their P.E. teachers, 20 students have signed up to participate in the fencing training courses. I do not know what the outcome will be in the long run, or how many of them will keep it up, but they seem keenly interested at the moment.

UNDP Turkey: How did you find out about the “Life Plus” Youth Fund? How did you apply to it? Do you have a partner in this project?

C.G.: Being members of the Yenişehir Youth and Sports Association, we prepared this project jointly with Ankara Governorship Youth and Sports Directorate, and the Turkish Fencing Federation supported us. We had always wanted to develop such a project, but we did not know how to put it into practice. Thanks to a friend from the “Life Plus” Fund, we learned about it, and obtained the essential information from the Fund’s website. Then a difficult application process began.

UNDP Turkey: The underlying aim of the “Life Plus” Youth Fund is to encourage the youth to assume responsibility in social development, to support them in implementing projects that their peers could benefit from. Is your project going to contribute to the youth other than envolving them in fencing and helping them acquire a profession?

C.G.: Our basic goal is to increase the number of sportspeople in our society. One of Atatürk’s maxims was, “I like sportspeople who are intelligent and agile and who exhibit good moral character.” We hope to be exemplary role models for our peers. Moreover, we will also organize educational seminars for young people. In other words, our aim is more than just fencing training.

UNDP Turkey: What kind of seminars will you organize?

C.G.: We will carry out six seminars concerning sports diet for athletes, sports physiology and first aid in injuries, fighting substance addiction, health in sports, relations between sports-clubs-schools-parents, media and sports relations, youth psychology, as well as of course, fencing and refereeing education. Professional experts and academics will conduct these seminars.

UNDP Turkey: Is there a quota limit regarding participation in these seminars? Can any young person attend your seminars?

C.G.: Young people from other sport clubs, or people who are not involved with sports but are willing to learn a thing or two, are all welcomed to our seminars. We would be delighted if the turnout were huge. These projects are implemented voluntarily; so the more people we can reach, the better it gets.

UNDP Turkey: How can young people contribute to your project other than being participants? How do you envisage your future after the completion of this project?

C.G.: Fencing has a distinctive characteristic; once you start this sport, you cannot part with it easily. Therefore, these young people will continue fencing and this will be of great support to us. Our project team members are either studying at the university or university graduates. That means the young participants will follow in our footsteps. It is an important phase in life for especially those in their adolescence as high school students.

UNDP Turkey: You set up a schedule of ten months for this project. After the project is completed, will you still be carrying on with the trainings and seminars? Have you made plans to continue?

C.G.: We are hoping the media will continue to support as, as we will establish a fairly good publicity through our presentations and press meetings. We expect private companies to support us as well, because we have a good cause and try to achieve positive things. And this goes not only for our own project; all the project teams of the “Life Plus” Fund are doing good things.

UNDP Turkey: What kind of activities will you carry out within the scope of this project?

C.G.: Currently, we are introducing fencing and trying to attract young people to take up this sport. Then we’ll start the trainings. As I said before, we’ll have seminars. Finally, we will conclude the project with the “One Touch Plus to Life” Contest. Our trainees will themselves be the referees at this tournament!

UNDP Turkey: How does this project affect you, the project team, personally?

C.G.: The truth is that we have learned a lot, thanks to the “Life Plus” Programme. This project will not only contribute to sportspeople; we, team members, have also gained a lot from it already. For instance, we learned how to deal with crisis situations, about taking initiative, and sharing our knowledge with other people. While adding “a Plus to Life”, we are also adding precious experiences to our personal lives.